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Charles Town maintains four-day racing schedule

AT THE RACES --

July 27, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Charles Town Races & Slots will continue its four-day weekly racing schedule through October, racing secretary Randy Wehrman said.

Live racing at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval is conducted Sunday afternoon and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Wehrman said a few changes have been made in the condition book, but the purse structure of about $180,000 daily basically remains the same.

"In the last book, we increased the allowance and maiden special weight races so that increased the purse structure some," Wehrman said.

Since returning to the Charles Town racing scene, Wehrman has made some adjustments in the condition book.

"We're having more open allowance races and definitely more distance races," Wehrman said. "We're trying to run more quality races at 4 1/2 furlongs while featuring more balance in our distance races."

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Wehrman is in his second stint as racing secretary at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval.

The Alexandria, Ky., native held a similar position at Charles Town from 1997 to 1999 and, most recently, has worked at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., as well as three racetracks in Kentucky -- Keeneland, Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs.

He was the first racing secretary hired by Penn National Gaming in the late 1990s.

Shaping up

Spokesman Bill Mooney said the West Virginia Derby field at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort near Chester is taking shape.

The biggest day of the year for thoroughbred racing in the state's northern panhandle is highlighted by the 39th running of the Grade 3 $750,000 event.

Joe Narcavish, the racing secretary at Mountaineer Park, anticipates a field that will include the Grade 2 Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory, along with contenders from the stables of trainers Steve Asmussen, Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher -- all of whom have won Triple Crown events in recent years.

"Both Asmussen and Zito have prior victories in the West Virginia Derby as well," said Narcavish. "Asmussen has won it twice -- with Real Dandy in 2005 and with Zanjero in 2007. Zito sent in Sir Shackleton to win our Derby in 2004. They're very aware of the distance -- 1 1/8 miles -- what sort of horse is needed to be successful."

Asmussen, who leads all North American trainers in victories (365 through July 21) and purse earnings (over $17 million) in 2008, has nominated a pair of colts to this year's race.

The likely participant will be Z Fortune, who was a 2 1/2-length winner of the Grade 3 Lecomte Handicap at Fair Grounds in New Orleans in January and also placed in the Arkansas Derby and Ohio Derby, both Grade 2 events.

Zito, a Hall of Fame conditioner who registered his second career triumph in the Belmont Stakes this past June with Da' Tara, has nominated four colts to the race.

One is Coal Play, a son of Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year. Last December, Coal Play finished second in the What a Pleasure Stakes at Calder Race Course, and more recently he was a 9 1/2-length winner in allowance company at Monmouth Park.

Pletcher, who has received the Eclipse Award as North America's champion trainer each of the last four years, has yet to add a West Virginia Derby victory to his resume. But Pletcher has knocked on the door several times, finishing second with Pollard's Vision in 2004 and Magna Graduate in 2005, and third with Colita in 2003.

Atoned, a Pletcher trainee who finished second in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct last November and in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby this past March, appears to be Mountaineer Park-bound. In his most recent start, Atoned again finished second -- this time in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Louie Roussel III, who trains and co-owns Recapturetheglory with Ron Lamarque, has never before run a horse in the West Virginia Derby. Back in 1988, the Roussel-Lamarque team campaigned Risen Star, who won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, and was honored as North American's champion 3-year-old.

Recapturetheglory went postward at odds of 49-1 in this year's Kentucky Derby and was third with only an eighth-mile remaining before fading to fifth behind winner Big Brown.

Recapturetheglory's most recent start came in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs, where he was the favorite at nearly even-money but encountered a traffic jam with a quarter-mile remaining and finished fourth.

At Mountaineer Park, Recapturetheglory could be the front-running contender everyone else has to catch. He is capable of winning a graded, nine-furlong event in wire-to-wire fashion, as he did in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 5.

The West Virginia Derby is the anchoring event of Mountaineer Park's year-round racing season and is also the only race in the state ever to achieve graded status.

Post time for the nine-race card is 2 p.m.

Pony tales

ยท The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission has cut in half a jockey's suspension for whipping his horse in the face.

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